Shoot the Pianist

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A review of the 1960 movie "Shoot the Pianist"

Shoot the Pianist is a French film from 1960, directed by the great Francois Truffaut.

It stars singer Charles Aznavour as a once famous pianist, reduced to playing piano in a seedy bar, trying to escape his shady past. However one night his brother comes in, pursued by a pair of gangsters, and the pianist finds himself involved once again in the world he seeks to escape from. 

Following Truffaut's celebrated debut film The 400 Blows (1959). the director wanted to make a film which paid tribute to his love of American crime films, and pulp fiction, as opposed to the "very French" (in Truffaut's opinion) 400 Blows.  He found his subject with the novel Down There by David Goodis.  The storyline of a man trying to escape his past being drawn into a dangerous criminal world is familiar enough, but Truffaut's French New Wave style elevates it to another level entirely.  Utilising a range of techniques (extended voice overs, out of sequence shots, jump cuts, and a grainy kinetic filming style) and paying tribute to the world of thrillers and film noir, this is a film which crackles with life and energy, and is often very funny.  However,l there are moments and elements in the film that are incredibly dark, and in amongst all the fun and vibrancy, there is a string tragic element.  As the shy, haunted, heavy eyed piano player, Charles Aznavour is perfect.

 

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